May 11, 2015
II Peter 2:1, 15
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
II Peter, chapter 2 is a 22-verse warning against false teachers and leaders. Verses 1 and 15 summarize the whole chapter:
…there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be
false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies,
even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift
destruction…. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following
the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteous-
In Israel’s history, there certainly were false prophets who led the people astray. Balaam the son of Beor is selected by Peter as a prime example. His story is told mainly in Numbers, chapters 22 through 24. Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights) of the story:
• Balaam lived in Pethor, a city on the Euphrates River in northern Mesopotamia, south of the city of Carchemish. Pethor was about 400 miles north of Moab, so when Balak, king of Moab sent his ambassadors to fetch Balaam, it was an 800 mile journey there and back – perhaps a month and a half travel time.
• King Balak sent for Balaam to come and curse the people of Israel who were camped in the plains of Moab across the Jordan River from Jericho. Israel had just defeated two powerful kings and their armies, “…Sihon king of the Amorites…” (Numbers 21:21) and “…Og king of Bashan…” (Numbers 21:33). It says in Numbers 22:2 and 3: “Now Balak…saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was exceedingly afraid…” of being wiped out also.
• Balaam had quite a reputation as a prophet. Balak had heard about his reputation and requested of the prophet in Numbers 22:6:
…come…curse this people for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and
drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and
he whom you curse is cursed.
• It seems from the record at first glance that Balaam was a godly prophet, for he himself confessed to the Moabite ambassadors in Numbers 22:18, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more.” So the first request was refused because God had told him in a dream, “You shall not go with them [the Moabite ambassadors]; you shall not curse the people [of Israel], for they are blessed.” (Numbers 22:12).
• Balaam did not then come to Moab. But it says in Numbers 22:15 through 17, “Balak again sent princes, more numerous and honorable than [the first time]…and said to him, ‘…I will certainly honor you greatly, and will do whatever you say….’ ” So he went the second time because, as it is written in Jude 1:11: “…Balaam…ran greedily after…reward….”
• Again it seems like Balaam was only following God’s direction, for three times Balak asked the prophet to curse Israel, and he blessed them three times instead! (See Numbers 22:31-24:10).
• But it does not end there. In Revelation 2:14 it says, “…Balaam…taught Balak to put a stumbling block before Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” This incident is recorded in Numbers 25:1 through 18. The men of Israel “…began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.” Apparently, Balaam would not directly curse Israel, but he told the king how to subtly bring God’s judgment upon that nation! The result – God plagued Israel. “And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.” (Numbers 25:9).
• What was the fate of Balaam? Apparently he stuck around to counsel other enemies of Israel also. For it is written in Numbers 31:7 and 8: “And they warred against the Midianites…and they killed…the five kings of Midian. Balaam, the son of Beor they also killed with the sword.”
You can see that, as a Christian, you would never want to follow the likes of Balaam! In our next blog, let’s apply this to following a false prophet today!